The Cincinnati Bengals tight ends aren’t the most revered group in the league, but they might be a hidden gem. Granted, between the three expected to make the roster, none have massive pro-level success. Regardless, they have a chance to play a pivotal role in the team’s 2021 success. With the team’s bolstered line and impressive wide receiver room, Cincinnati’s tight ends can be the icing on the cake. Still, all three have something to prove this season.
In 2021, the Cincinnati Bengals Tight Ends Need to be Difference Makers
Last season, the Bengals tight ends didn’t produce enough on offense. Now, they’re at an interesting crossroads heading into a massive season for the organization. They’re headlined C.J. Uzomah, with Drew Sample acting as a trustworthy staple, and have Thaddeus Moss as their young wildcard. All three players have interesting upsides, but none of the above have proven anything up to this point in their careers. After this team’s roster reload during the off-season, the Cincinnati Bengals tight end room has become a point of contention. Clearly, they haven’t been the highest-producing unit in Cincinnati’s offense.
Some suggest the team pursue Zach Ertz or even a Tyler Eifert reunion. However, the Bengals have three unique tight ends on their roster, all of whom could make an impact in 2021. At LSU, Joe Burrow found a comfortable rhythm with the tight ends in his offense. Obviously, the Bengals recognized that connection and brought in his college teammate in Moss. Still, Moss is an undrafted free agent and has yet to play an NFL snap. Burrow and Moss can certainly still connect for some key plays in Cincinnati, but it’s far from a sure bet. In all likelihood, the Bengals need to weaponize Uzomah and Sample this season. Each has something different to bring to the table and can make a major impact in different ways.
Fresh off his recovery from a torn Achilles tendon in a Week 2 loss against the Cleveland Browns, there’s some serious pressure on Uzomah. Currently, he’s on the last year of a three-year pact that earns him $5.2 million this season. For the 28-year-old pass-catcher with six years of pro experience, 2021 performance will be the path to his next payday. After all, he’s accumulated just 1,098 yards and eight touchdowns on 114 career receptions. He’s the 14th-highest-paid tight end in football and really has yet to live up to the billing.
With that said, Uzomah has the highest upside of any of the team’s current tight ends. Almost immediately, Uzomah showed his connection with Joe Burrow, as the two looked in sync by their opener. Unfortunately, the two played just two games together in 2020 and are now rebuilding that chemistry in camp. According to Bengals sources and Uzomah himself, the tight end looks back to top form early in pre-season workouts. It’s a major benefit to both himself and Burrow to be back on the field at this stage. Certainly, the team needs the duo to get comfortable and allow Burrow to find a trustworthy tight end in his passing progressions. If Uzomah can even get back to his 2018 form, it would be a very welcomed performance. In that season, he compiled 439 yards, three touchdowns, and snagged 43 catches. If he can refind that form, that’s a heck of a start for this Cincinnati Bengals tight end room.
In Cincinnati, talking about Drew Sample is a tremendously nuanced conversation. On one end of the spectrum, his second-round billing has made him something of a martyr among fans. On the other end, he’s an unbelievable blocker and a sturdy pass-catching option as a backup. Truly, Sample is probably in the upper tier of blockers from the tight end position. The team lost a key pass backfield pass protector in Giovani Bernard this off-season. That means Sample plays much more of a pass protection role from the H-back position, where he’s proven his worth. That’s a big deal for Joe Burrow’s health, However, there’s a great chance for Sample to take a big leap in 2021.
— Willie Lutz (@willie_lutz) May 21, 2021
Entering his third year, it’s time for Sample to take the next step as a pass-catcher. His numbers in 2020 weren’t bad. Sample finished with 349 yards, one touchdown, and caught 45 passes. Impressively, he owned a 75.5 percent catch rate and quarterbacks earned a 90.8 rating when targeting Sample. In 2021, Sample can emerge as a versatile tight end that puts defensive groups in fits. Regardless, his ability to block with the best raises his ceiling for this Bengals offense in 2021.
Amongst this group of Cincinnati Bengals tight ends, Thaddeus Moss is the one that derives the most curiosity. The last time he played with Joe Burrow, the two left the field with a National Championship in tow. Injuries plagued him as an undrafted free agent with the Washington Football Team in 2020. Now, he joins a Bengals team looking for more weapons to mix up Burrow’s arsenal. Besides, this is a guy who contributed 570 yards and four touchdowns in LSU’s prolific 2019 offensive attack. In Cincinnati, Moss won’t be expected to finish anywhere near those figures, at least in year one. Still, Burrow liked Moss as a red-zone weapon in college. This season, it would make sense for the Bengals to give him some looks in some of those packages.
The Cincinnati Bengals Tight Ends Should Make Burrow Better This Season, But They Need to Prove Their Worth
Currently, there are more questions than answers for this Cincinnati Bengals tight end group. Regardless, the upside is very exciting, whereas the downside makes for a glaring need on this team’s roster. If the Bengals can make the most of Uzomah and Sample, their offense will look deadly this season. If the two are just average, that won’t hurt either. With Uzomah in a contract year and Sample having something to prove, it’s not unreasonable to have high expectations for the duo. Perhaps the most interesting wrinkle amongst the group is Moss. Zac Taylor is a creative play-caller and clearly spent time working through LSU film to enhance some of his play designs for Burrow. Adding Moss into the mix allows him to continue making the most of those LSU lessons.
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